Host's Diary
6:02 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Racism, Guide Dogs and Palin: What We Talk About When We Talk About The Nose

By User:Javier Carro (Picture taken at the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum) via Wikimedia Commons
James Hanley.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Last minute update: I'm fascinated by this article from this morning about Jacqueline Kennedy's pink suit -- maybe as a way in to a larger dicussion about this moment, about the way 11/22/63 is back and being re-processed through the lens of 2013. But I'm not sure the panel will go for it. 

It's 5:30 pm on Thursday, and I have so many tabs open on my browser I think Chrome could just implode, taking us all with it. This is not unusual as we get ready for The Nose, a weekly cultural roundtable. We look for a certain kind of "talkable" item, and finding them can be tough.

Sarah Palin says she should have done more homework about the Pope. Too easy?

At the moment, I'm most interested in a concatenation of stories which "play with" notions of race. The buzziest of these is the extensive backlash to an aside in Richard Cohen's column about northeast politics. Here's the aside:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts—but not all—of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

Here's a reaction to a reaction to a reaction. And here's Colbert's merciless takedown. Obviously Cohen is an easy target right now, but I might press the panelists a little bit. Don't we want journalists to explore race in ways that make us uncomfortable? Cohen is clumsy, but he ignites a conversation.

And how does the column fit with this story about a conservative white man who won an election in Houston -- apparently by convincing the district's heavily back voting population that he was one of them (without ever actually lying about it)?

And could we also tie in this story about a white separatist who found out on television that, genetically speaking, he "has a little black" in him?

Are these stories discussable together? To me, they're part of the old question about whether race is a social construct or a reality. 

What else. Sarah Palin says she should have done more homework about the Pope. Too easy? 

Rob Ford's latest comments. How would I even bring them up on the air? "You know the Russian rock band that got put in jail? Well ..."    Late breaking news:  A Ford brothers reality show. If we wanted to linger in the sewer, there's two bits of news on "50 Shades": the movie and the book with herpes.  I bet I know who was reading that book.

Here's a story that makes you feel kind of good about people. And bad about USAirways. And any week that James Hanley is on the panel, there's a story about beards.

Maybe during the night something really important will happen. Bigger than a book with herpes. Can I close these tabs now? 

And what would you talk about?